Historic Opera House
Times were tough on the young in the 1800's
NEW ALMADEN CALIFORNIA
Was really Old Almaden
Occupied Historic Town
In 1824 Luis Chabolla and Antonio Sunol experimented with the Cinnabar ore that they had found on Mine Hill while exploring. Their attempts at amalgamating the red ore had all but failed. In 1845 Don Andres Castillero, A Mexican cavalry captain traveling to Sutters Fort was led by Ohlone Indians to a deposit of red clay they used as paint pigment. Castillero laid claim of the deposit in 1845, declaring he had found gold and silver. He set up camp near Los Alamitos Creek, but months later was forced to return to Mexico because of growing tensions between the U.S. and Mexico.
In 1846 The Barron Forbes Co. acquired the shares and secured majority ownership, building a township known as the "Hacienda De Beneficio", and later known as Spanish Town, and today as New Almaden. Once California had become a state, all Mexican land grantees were required to re-file their claims with the U.S. Government. The Barron Forbes Company filed their claim in 1852, however a legal battle that would last 12 years ensued. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled against the Forbes Company and President Lincoln signed an order to evict the Forbes Company in 1862. In 1865, under the leadership of the Quicksilver Mining Company, seven hundred buildings, mostly dwellings and 1,800 residents were documented as living on Mine Hill alone. Most of those living on Mine Hill were of Cornish descent, and the township became known as English Town. Characterized by nice white wooden houses with white picket fences, the residents of English Town established a school house, church and boarding house. By 1874 145 tons of ore was extracted daily. As with many other mines around the western states, the 1900's were not prosperous times, and by 1912 the closing of the mines left both English Town on top of the hill, and Spanish Town on the bottom of the hill abandoned.
There were hopes of revitalization in 1915 when operations began at the Senador Mine North of the town sites. But this did not last long. A year later the operation was stripped.
In 1930 the newly formed
California Conservation Corps took occupancy of English Town as they built fire
roads and worked the area as fire fighters until about 1939. From about 1928 to
1972 smaller mining operators including the New Idra Mining Corp. worked
various tunnels, however in the late 1970's the price of mercury dropped and
the realization of mercury's environmental toxicity caused the mines to become
closed forever. Today most of the lands that were once mined belong to the
County of Santa Clara, and are now on public park property. Hiking Trails lead
to many of the mines which are boarded for safety. There are still several
original buildings in New Almaden (Spanish Town) including the Opera House.
Brochures of a walking tour are available at the museum and the original
cemetery exists on the South side of the Alamitos Creek behind the town.
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